CFL: Understanding Canadian Football

CFL: Understanding Canadian Football

It’s that time of year again. The NFL season is in full swing, and we are quickly approaching the end of the third week of 4-down football. But while the NFL season is just beginning, the CFL north of the border is starting to heat up, as we approach Week 15 and teams are neck and neck fighting for their playoff lives. Whether you’re an avid CFL follower or you’ve never watched a game in your life, this article will help you understand the many differences between the National Football League and the Canadian Football League.

There are a lot of reasons to watch a CFL game. Although the players in this league are considered not as great as NFL players, there are still a number of ex-CFL players that have gone on to have successful NFL careers (Doug Flutie and Warren Moon are two great examples here, Moon actually started his career playing Canadian football!)

Alouettes vs Argonauts | Associated Press

The league is extremely competitive. Not to say other professional football leagues aren’t, but I find the CFL to be more competitive and more intense than the NFL. The Canadian Football League has nine teams split into two divisions, the East Division, which houses four teams from Eastern Canada, and the West Division, which features five Western Canadian teams. Of these nine teams, only six make it to the postseason, three teams from the West and three from the East. However, in the event that the fourth place finisher from one division ends the season with more points than the third place finisher from the opposite division, that team crosses over to play the postseason in the opposite division. The CFL playoffs feature three rounds, division semifinals, division finals, and finally the Grey Cup finals. The first place teams from each division get an automatic bye straight to the division finals, which is played in their own home stadiums. The second and third place teams from each division play in the West Semifinals and the East Semifinals, with the second place team hosting this game. The Grey Cup game (the CFL’s version of the Super Bowl) is played in a pre-determined CFL city.

The Grey Cup, given to the CFL team that wins the Grey Cup game, is the oldest trophy in football. While this year’s NFL season will feature the 54th Super Bowl Game, the Grey Cup will be handed out for the 107th consecutive season.

Roughriders vs Lions | Canadian Press

The nine teams currently active in the CFL are:

West Division

British Columbia Lions

Edmonton Eskimos

Calgary Stampeders

Saskatchewan Roughriders

Winnipeg Blue Bombers

East Division

Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Toronto Argonauts

Ottawa Redblacks

Montreal Alouettes

The CFL is also different in the fact that the game is played with 3 downs instead of 4. The football is bigger in diameter, and the football field is 110 yards compared to the NFL’s 100 yard field, with midfield in the CFL being at the 55 yard line. Also, the goalposts are placed in front of the end zone instead of the back.

Stampeders: 2018 Grey Cup Champs |

The Canadian Football League is broadcasted on TSN, one of two official sports networks in Canada. However, there are some regular season games that are broadcasted on ESPN south of the border, and effective 2018, all CFL playoff games are shown on an ESPN channel. So next time you’re switching through your TV channels, and the NFL isn’t on, give the CFL a watch. Who knows, you might even find a favourite team!

Featured photo courtesy of

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